What the hell happened to Tupelo? It is home to George McLean, whose newspaper pushed creative and progressive economics that turned Lee County from the poorest county in Mississippi in 1940 into one of the better off.

His paper, the Journal, was a progressive beacon ...
/1
Economic picture changed only because McLean and the Journal helped develop the dairy industry & killed the Chamber of Commerce, creating instead the Community Development Foundation, a super-charged economic development board. There is no Elvis Presley without all this ...
/2
Elvis grew up poor, but not nearly as poor as it was in the 30s. The family had their own house and enough money so his mom could buy him a guitar. He lived in Shakerag, a mixed black-white working class neighborhood of people on the way up with black music as part of life ...
/3
McLean was called a communist by many of his businessman peers, but they worked with him anyway, because as one of them put it "he may be a communist but his damn ideas work".

McLean believed in people, in their energy, creativity and right to have a decent chance in life...
/4
He pushed industrialization in the 40s when that challenged the agricultural/business power structure. He pushed race relations and education in the 60s. He was instrumental in developing a strong community college system in the NE region & non-profit Lee County hospital ...
/5
McLean financed a pilot teacher aid program for Lee County whose schools were way behind Tupelo schools. The Reagan Administration refused to give him a tax credit for it, but he did it anyway. It was successful, so he lobbied to make it part of Winter's educational reform ...
/6
He hired me to make a film about the teacher aid program, as part of his lobby campaign in the State Legislature. It was a 16mm film, and its only audience were State legislators, especially the State Senate. The goal: to show what the program looked like, and how it worked.
/7
Winter's bill passed the Senate with just one vote to spare ...

A close-fought thing. Mississippi has massive problems today, but imagine how much bigger they would be without Winter's landmark education reform, which also professionalized the State Department of education.
/8
At his death in the 80s George McLean was pushing robotics -- because that was going to be the future, "and we have to get our people ready for it." It meant getting programs in the community colleges to teach robotics, so working people would have the skills they needed ...
/9
Back to my question. "What the hell happened to Tupelo?"

The hard-right political turn taken at the Journal?
Don Wildmon & American Family Association setting up shop in Tupelo?
All the right-wing businessmen enabled by success?

Not sure. Something sure as hell happened.
/10

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More from @MississippiBlu2

11 Mar
¨Thanks @DonnerKay -- really important research.

A close look at Reconstruction shows how easy it was for wealthy men to reclaim land & continue on pretty much as before by adopting the sharecropping system. Sharecropping was NOT slavery, but it led to massive wage theft.
/1
Powerful violent men often successfully pass the money they've stolen to their heirs and so to countless generations after. Studies in England show that those with Norman derived names are measurably wealthier than those descended from the conquered Anglo-Saxons.
/2
In the case of Mississippi, African Americans were of course hit hardest by the slave system & the economic systems that replaced it. But it also deprived poor whites of wealth by using slave labor as the wage standard that everyone had to compete against.
/3
Read 10 tweets
22 Jan
White Mississippi remains in the grip of the vicious lies reflected in the 1776 project. Lies about who we are as Americans and where we've been -- and especially lies about the Confederate traitors who started the Civil War ...
/1

@MSFreePress @invisib77306381 @DonnerKay
I was raised on those lies as a child educated in Mississippi schools in the 1960s. How vicious drunken Yankees had burned our town during the Civil War. How courageous white women and their faithful "Negro" servants had resisted and saved some of the old homes ... /2
It wasn't just schools, it was almost the whole of White society. Events like the annual pilgrimages perpetrated Old South myths. Ole Miss did too, where during the 1950s students re-enacted the assasination of Abraham Lincoln during the annual "Dixie Week"...
/3
Read 19 tweets

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